UN Report Challenges WTO Agenda
GENEVA — Calling the World Trade Organization (WTO) a "nightmare" for developing countries, a UN study team suggested in August that the trade group be brought under UN purview. In a report to the UN Sub-commission on Protection of Human Rights, the team also charged that the WTO’s rules are based "on grossly unfair and even prejudiced" assumptions.
Although the report echoes criticisms by anti-globalization groups, it rejects the idea of linking trade rules to human rights, labor, and environmental standards. Civil society groups in developing countries also oppose such linkages, arguing they would provide Western countries with an excuse to erect more trade barriers. If approved, the study, which examined the effects of globalization on human rights, will be presented to the UN Human Rights Commission during its annual session in Geneva next March.
According to the report, the rules of the 137-member WTO "reflect an agenda that serves only to promote dominant corporatist interests that already monopolize the area of international trade." Human rights were given only an oblique reference in the WTO’s founding documents. "The net result is that for certain sectors of humanity — particularly the developing countries of the South — the WTO is a veritable nightmare."
Supporters of the WTO challenge such arguments by pointing to the weight of developing country membership, noting that at least 30 more poor nations want to join. They also say the WTO’s dispute settlement system has often worked in favor of emerging economies when they’ve brought cases against big powers. Discussing the report, sub-commission member El-Hadji Guisse of Senegal accused the WTO of carrying out a "second colonialization process in which the only interest was profit." If the UN was consistent, he argued, it would oppose the existence of a trade body that operates outside the UN system and makes decisions by consensus rather than voting, motivated by "money, domination, and exploitation."
Another sub-commission member, Japan’s Yozo Yakota, said the WTO should be encouraged to enter into an agreement with the UN, allowing its activities to be reviewed for compliance with international standards.
back to top
Cinderella Liberty Puts Lid on Troop Crimes
OKINAWA — Following several public scandals, a curfew has been imposed on US military forces based in Okinawa, the Pacific island group that hosts most of Japan’s US forces. The 59,000 people affected by the new "Cinderella liberty" rule can’t stay outside the gates of 10 bases after midnight.
Several incidents in the weeks leading up to the recent G-8 Summit of industrialized countries in Okinawa sparked the decision. In one, a heavily intoxicated marine entered the bedroom of a 14-year-old girl and fondled her. Next, a marine got into a brawl with a taxi driver and his friends over an unpaid fare. Then, an airman hit a pedestrian with his car and failed to stop. Until the curfew, barroom brawls were common, but Japanese cops usually didn’t get involved.
The latest incidents and resulting arrests further galvanized public opinion against the bases. Kadena, the largest US airbase in Asia, was encircled by 27,000 demonstrators in a human chain. The troops aren’t happy about the curfew; most feel they’re being victimized in response to the actions of a few.
Seventy-five percent of US military facilities in Japan are in Okinawa, home for 1.3 million Japanese and a US dependency from the end of World War II to 1972. Japan provides a $100,000 annual subsidy to cover maintenance costs of the US presence. The bases occupy up 20 percent of the main island’s land, often on prime city sites or beachfronts. They employ about 15,000 locals.
Okinawans argue that freedom from foreign military control would boost the economy, freeing up buildings and permitting modernization of the transportation system. The US-built highway system skirts the bases, making journeys circuitous. The main island has no railroad, since it would run through bases.
But the US isn’t apt to leave soon, determined to thwart any Chinese designs on Taiwan.
back to top
Colombian Reporter Speaks from Exile
BARCELONA — After journalist Alfredo Molano criticized US-backed military and paramilitary forces in Bogota’s daily El Espectador, he and his family received death threats. Today, they live in exile in Barcelona, Spain.
In late July, Molano, a leading expert on agriculture and the substitution of coca crops, was interviewed by Narco News Bulletin. He spoke about the imminent danger posed by "Plan Colombia," the $1.3 billion US military aid package, and praised Europe’s refusal to participate. "The best way to fight against drug trafficking is to legalize it," he said.
The US plan won’t slow the illegal drug trade, Molano explained, but will spread the cocaine crop to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and northern Colombia, causing grave environmental harm to the Amazon jungle. The narco-power of violent paramilitary squads will also increase, along with their freedom to commit human rights atrocities and threaten journalists.
The true motive for the plan, which will displace Colombian peasants, is to clear the way for construction of a new Atlantic-Pacific canal within Colombia, he says. For the full interview, go to www.narconews.com/exiled.html. To reach Narco News Bulletin, visit www.narconews.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
back to top
WASHINGTON, DC — Forty years after the assassination of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba, evidence has surfaced that President Dwight Eisenhower may have directly ordered the CIA to "eliminate" him.
The evidence comes from the minute-taker at an August 18, 1960, White House meeting between Eisenhower and his national security advisers on the Congo crisis. In a previously unpublished 1975 interview, Robert Johnson said that he vividly recalled the president turning to Allen Dulles, then CIA director, "in the full hearing of all those in attendance, and saying something to the effect that Lumumba should be eliminated."
As president, Eisenhower had strict rules for reports on National Security Council meetings: no direct quotations. Now we begin to see why. But the precise chain of events isn’t clear yet. According to Africa expert Lugo de Witte, Belgian officers may have done the CIA’s work, with help from Joseph-Desire Mobutu, the US ally who subsequently took control of the country (TF, Feb. 2000). What we know is this: After Lumumba was deposed as the Congo’s first prime minister, he was arrested by Mobutu’s forces on orders from Belgium’s foreign minister, and executed under the supervision of a Belgian captain.
back to top
SAVANNAH — With recent reports on vanishing amphibian populations, US attention to the issue has intensified. But, according to an article in <ital>BioScience<ital, reptiles are in even greater danger of extinction worldwide than their better known cousins.
According to Dr. Whit Gibbons, a herpetologist and ecology professor at the University of Georgia, habitat loss and degradation may be the largest single factor. Even when a wetland is protected, for example, the surrounding terrestrial habitat needed by semiaquatic reptiles often isn’t.
Invasive species also can spell danger. One example is the Galapagos tortoise, now nearly extinct due largely to introduced rats, which destroy the tortoise eggs. Other problems include environmental pollution, disease, global climate change, and the threats posed by humans, including cars, human food wastes, and incorrect handling.
The commercial use of reptiles for pets, food, and use in folk medicine has also contributed to the decline. Human use isn’t universally bad, says Gibbons, but should be "sustainable" — that is, the population should be able to rebound to at least the same level. This is difficult for long-lived species, which may take years to reach maturity.
"The disappearance of reptiles from the natural world is genuine and should be a matter of concern," writes Gibbons. "Current evidence suggests that these declines constitute a worldwide crisis."
back to top
Jury Slams Fox for BGH Cover Up
TAMPA — After a five-week trial, a Florida jury agreed in August that Fox TV pressured two journalists to broadcast a false, distorted or slanted news report on Monsanto’s controversial bovine growth hormone (BGH).
Finding that Fox took retaliatory personnel action against reporter Jane Akre because she threatened to blow the whistle to the Federal Communications Commission, the jury awarded her $425,000. However, it ruled against her co-worker, Steve Wilson, deciding that Fox’ decision not to renew his contract wasn’t based solely on the whistle blowing threat.
After the verdict, Fox spokesman Phil Metlin tried to sound upbeat, noting that "the jury realized that Fox never told anyone to lie, distort or slant the news." An appeal is likely.
"Were these guys at the same trial I was?" Akre quipped after watching TV reports on the verdict. "They think this jury decided Fox never told anyone to lie, distort, or slant the news?" Wilson added. "As for Fox lawyer Ted Russell making a similar statement on the air, he’s just doing what the jury saw Fox lawyers often do. They frequently have, shall we say, a unique interpretation of the truth."
back to top
Race for Space Begins at the Equator
LONDON — As the Space Shuttle mission to begin building an International Space Station suggests, joint projects between countries can help open up this frontier. But the veneer of harmony conceals a fiercely competitive situation, with 40 countries vying for contracts and annual sales figures running into the billions.
Developing nations with poor telecommunications infrastructure have the most to gain. Indonesia, for example, is geographically difficult to link with telephone land lines. Although a big investment, a satellite can connect remote islands as easily as adjacent towns.
The US spends the most on space — $30 billion a year and rising, three-quarters of the total world expenditure. Europe follows with 16 percent. Doubts are rising about Russia’s ability to pay its way in the Space Station, a joint project with the US, Europe, Canada, and Japan. Beyond those, an increasing number of states have the ability to launch satellites: China, India, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Brazil, Malaysia, and Australia.
However, the space business isn’t just about rockets, but where they’re launched. The best site is on the equator, taking advantage of the momentum provided by the Earth’s spin. Thus, Kourou, in French Guyana, has hosted 123 successful launches. Spain and Norway also own attractive sites. The best, however, is on the Pacific Ocean near Kiribati Atoll on the equator. In this case, the floating launch pad takes the rocket to the site.